A simple demonstration of care

Covid is back with a vengeance. Masking is an intelligent, adaptive, compassionate practice. If you’ve stopped, it’s never too late to start again.

Vida King is a born and raised Vermonter who's traded the Green Mountains for the Blue Ridge Mountains, for now. She spends her time caretaking, making art, and riding waves of grief, rage, and awe.

As many of you are aware, Covid is badly surging all across the country. Infection levels are higher than during 90% of the pandemic.

I know many readers will instinctively want to ignore this piece. We are exhausted and traumatized by living within this unremitting pandemic, and so many are coping by dissociating.

Dissociation is a powerful and protective response to trauma, but it's not a state to live in endlessly, so please tune back in.

Firstly, I ask you to consider masking as the intelligent, adaptive compassionate practice that it is. If you've stopped, it's never too late to start again; those of us who've always masked welcome your learning process.

You might find it ridiculous that when this country first introduced laws against drinking and driving, as well as laws enforcing seat belt wearing, people were outraged by their "personal freedoms" being infringed upon.

Nowadays, it's common sense to drive sober, wear a seat belt and, of course, ensure your children do, too. People who don't take these measures are understood to be acting irresponsibly, compromising their own and others' safety.

Masking within a pandemic of an airborne, deadly, disabling virus is comparable.

It's a simple demonstration of care, for your well-being and for the well-being of those around you.

It is not "living in the past," as some might be misled to believe.

It's adapting to our current reality and preparing for a near future where the rapidly changing climate will necessitate more masking as we navigate other pandemics and air contamination by wildfire smoke.

These are not pleasant truths to acknowledge, but we must be willing to face and adjust to them; our collective survival depends on actively caring for one another in tumultuous times.

* * *

It is now well-documented that Covid causes lasting damage to all major organ systems. It also suppresses the immune system very similarly to HIV, and each reinfection leaves you more susceptible to Long Covid and other serious illnesses.

More than 18 million Americans are living with Long Covid, and that number is steadily rising. If you read accounts of people suffering from debilitating Long Covid - and I encourage you to do so - you'd not wish it on yourself, and you certainly wouldn't want to be culpable for someone else developing this illness.

Taking Covid precautions seriously is a way to protect the most vulnerable among us. Sadly, individualistic thinking has caused most to "move on," to stop considering the most vulnerable, while also separating themselves from this category.

It is imperative for people to understand that everyone is vulnerable to Long Covid, including children - 1 in 6 kids who catch Covid will develop symptoms.

Children are our future; they deserve a chance at healthy, long lives. As adults, we're responsible for ensuring this. We must advocate for robust, science-based safety measures to be implemented in schools, which are hotbeds for virus transmission.

* * *

Here are some resources to help mitigate the spread of Covid. Doing so would be a boon for overall public health; protecting the children in our communities protects us all.

• Dr. Michael Hoerger, director of the Pandemic Mitigation Collaborative (a top public U.S. Covid forecasting dashboard), warns of the severity of this current surge and outlines recommendations for how schools can keep kids safe.

Everyone should share his letter with school administrations, district boards, departments of education, anyone who might have influence or decision-making authority when it comes to health and safety protocols in schools.

• For those interested in understanding how minimizing its seriousness became the dominant narrative around Covid, to the immeasurable detriment of public awareness, and people's health and survival, I highly recommend "How the press manufactured consent for never-ending COVID reinfections," a well-researched piece of writing.

• For those who want to better understand Long Covid, here are some eye opening accounts from The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post.

* * *

Lastly, I want to acknowledge that if you feel stuck in dissociation, it's not surprising in a society that discourages people from feeling.

There's been so much lost to the pandemic, but our culture doesn't allow space for grieving and instead pressures us to push on in service of "business as usual" (read: racialized capitalism/the economy).

I invite you to grant yourself permission to grieve. Grief can be a transformative portal into a deeper relationship with oneself and with others, just as this pandemic could be a portal into practicing true reciprocal community care.

If we allow it to be.

This Voices Viewpoint was submitted to The Commons.

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